When you consider the importance of trust in leadership and business ethics, you understand why trust is important to customers.
One can argue that the sole purpose of marketing and communications is to earn and nurture trust.
It is imperative for any values-led or purpose-driven business to hold trust as a core value that is owned by every employee—from the CEO to the front-line team that interacts with customers online, by phone, and in person—and is reinforced by acting and speaking in a manner that is consistent with your values, character, and culture.
The challenge with trust is that you cannot buy it or force customers to believe your organization is trustworthy. Your brand must work to earn trust. Every interaction is an opportunity to build relationships and nurture trust.
When your brand is believable, customers trust that you have their best interest and experience in mind. You show this through your brand narrative (a.k.a. customer-focused story), social and service interactions, and by living out your organization’s values.
Trust is stored and nurtured like money in a bank account. Your brand makes deposits into your customers’ accounts every day; they exchange that trust with you when they buy, browse, and share their private information with you.
Operating with a culture of trustworthiness affirms that your organization seeks accountability and transparency.
Some organizations understand the priceless value of trust for their brand—others don’t.
Can You Trust Facebook? Is Marriott’s Golden Rule for Real?
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook continue to obfuscate and avoid putting people and purpose before profit. Their inconsistency, lack of transparency, and lack of respect for users’ privacy destroys trust and demonstrates that they hold your privacy in contempt.
With every action, Facebook proves that its values to “Be bold, focus on impact, move fast, be open, and build social value.” are hollow, empty promises.
Empty promises suck. Would you trust Mark Zuckerberg to give you advice on your company’s values if he said, “To identify your company values, ask, ‘What are you willing to give up?’” I think he should rephrase his question: “To drive shareholder value, my dreams for social engineering, and my company’s values, what are you willing to give up?”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Marriott builds and nurtures trust with people who are stressed or underserved through its values-driven Golden Rule campaign. When you stay at a Marriott hotel, they make a promise to treat you like they would want to be treated (which, of course, begs the question, “How does Marriott want to be treated?”).
“Treating others like we’d like to be treated,” as a guiding principle is noble—one to which we would all love to aspire. When Marriott’s employees live out what they promise in their Golden Rule campaign, their brand grows stronger and trust in Marriott grows.
For Marriott, it’s about making a human connection—where their brand is perceived as believable—because they view customers as people, not people as customers.
Of course, Marriott isn’t perfect. It’s an organization run by people and—individually or collectively—people aren’t perfect.
At least Marriott is trying.
Facebook isn’t perfect either, but they aren’t trying. The value of Facebook as a brand is tarnished and it will take years to recover. We can’t believe them no matter how many lobbyists or PR experts they hire to explain why their actions don’t align with their values. Facebook is not a believable, consistent, or human brand.
It’s in imperfection that the Marriott organization as a brand becomes believable and authentic. Not everyone will believe what Marriott promises is true, but when customers experience it for themselves they will know Marriott means what they say.
Listen as Often as You Speak
It’s likely that your marketing team’s first inclination is to tell your story from the organization’s perspective—how what you do is extraordinary—without listening to your customer’s perspective—how your customer’s life is better because of what your organization does.
For your story to fit into the worldview of your customer, you must first listen and understand how taking action fulfills their goals or meets their needs. Then you are able to communicate—with clarity and consistency—about how your organization fits into their worldview, not how theirs fits into yours.
Trust Is Earned Over Time
Don’t be like Facebook. There isn’t one practice or value they hold that is believable, consistent, or compelling.
Be like Marriott. Aim to be believable, consistent, and genuine. Nurture trust in your brand by aligning your day-to-day customer interactions with core values that demonstrate you mean what you say. If you make a mistake, own up to it and move on.
When you simplify, personify, and amplify the power of purpose through relationships and story then people will listen and tell themselves a story about you that is worth believing and sharing.